Today is my older sister’s birthday. As children growing up in Jamaica our parents would insist that we eat and drink what I thought back then, were horrible tasting foods. If I had a penny for the number of times I heard the line, “eat it, it good fi yuh” I would be wealthy. For some children growing up in the Caribbean, it was customary for them to be “washed out” before going back to school. Since old people are synonymous with herbs, medicine and strange customs, this was my grandmother’s thing, and if we happened to be at her house during “wash out” time, we were included in the unfortunate lot to be “tortured” with herbs, as I viewed it back then. Not sure what it was that we all ate during the summer that called for a cleanse or if our brains wouldn’t work well at school if we didn’t get one, but if my grandmother said we needed one then we were going to get one, whether we liked it or not.
As a child up until my teenage years, eating was never my thing. I didn’t care whether it was “good for me” or not. Even more so, I had no interest in the health benefits of herbs, vegetables, cerasee teas, porridge or any food for that matter. At mealtime after everybody had finished eating, there was always food left on my plate which I strategically moved around from side to side trying but deceiving no one that I had actually eaten something.
Luckily for me though, I had a secret weapon, an older sister who was always hungry. She was hungry, I had food, match made in heaven. We soon tacitly developed an understanding that whenever my mom left the room, for she was the superintendent in charge of enforcing food consumption, my sister who was always hanging around with just enough food left on her plate to keep the ruse going, would quickly devour her last bite along with everything left on my plate. This worked for a while until my mom who was no fool, soon grew curious as to why it was that I only found my appetite once she left the room. Soon she was sitting around the table watching me eat until my plate was clean or eventually, she would end up feeding me. Now I know feeding a normally functioning teenager was a bit unconventional, but my mom meant well. Besides she was concerned that her child was being reduced to all “elbows and knees” due to her picky eating habits.
I remember there was a time when both my sister and I had worms. My parents could not understand why after treating both of us with the same medication, a small pink chewable pill, my sister had gotten better but I was still plagued with worms. Yeah, they soon found out, hungry sister was getting a double dose of medication, hers and mine.
Today, my how things have changed! As we get older, we are less reluctant to try foods that are “good for us”. I will eat just about anything if you tell me, it’s healthy, prevents illness and even better, makes me look younger. Who would have guessed today I would be willingly juicing a soursop and drinking it without the watchful eye of the “superintendent”? As for my sister, today I would also be willing to return the favor of eating and drinking her portions of “horrible tasting” foods. But to this day, some things still haven’t changed, she’s still the hungry sister.
Happy Birthday Sis, thanks for always having my back and my belly too, love you…Sincerely Jan!